Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to all!

And from last year:

And from 2012:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Urban Renewal

One important part of having a layout is not being afraid of change.

So...the urban renewal department has decided that a change to my block of stores along Sheridan Road is in order. The department decided, in their wisdom, to put up a new building that will no longer block the view of the TV from the workbench!

I've started on the building:

This will be a two story commercial brick building with two storefronts. Luckily, the Wilson Currency Exchange has signed a new lease so they will be occupying one of the stores. Pop's Gyros and Italian Beef may occupy the other, but the details have yet to be worked out.

The current buildings as they stand:

There really isn't anything "wrong" with these buildings, but there were some of the first structures that were erected on the layout. The building on the right is an Ameritown building and the building on the left is my first attempt at scratch building. 

A couple of issues:

- Realism: One thing always lacking is apparent access to the second floor on a lot of model buildings. How do our model citizens ever access these upper floors? On my new building, there will be a center doorway that can be assumed to lead to the upper floor. The Ameritown building lacks this feature as does my scratch built building.

- Repetition: O Scale buildings are a bit sparse in selection. One feature I'd like to have on my layout is all unique buildings. That means I must scratch build. 

- Skills: I hope my skills have improved in the past few years. Therefore, I think I can make a better scene. Never be afraid to change.

- View: This item makes the least sense, but the Ameritown building does block half of the TV when I sit at my workbench....

I scratch build my buildings to fit a specific spot on the layout and generally don't work off of a plan. I just kind of "wing" it as I go along. I'll post more photos as work progresses.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A book review

This week I received "Dispatch Number 5, The Chicago "L's" Great Steel Fleet - The Baldies" by Bruce Moffatt, published by the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society.

I have to honestly say that this is a fantastic book. It is a must have for any Chicago elevated fan. The book clearly details the life of the Cincinnati Car Co. "Baldies". The photographs are clear and crisp, there are a lot of them and the accompanying text is very informative. Best of all, the price is an extremely reasonable $15.95. For the amount of information contained within, this is the bargain of the year. Bruce again shows why he is the preeminent expert on all things Chicago transit related.

I strongly recommend the book. It can be ordered from the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society at

In other news, not a whole lot has been happening on the layout. I did paint the false panel / backdrop that covers the fuse box.

I decided to go with a slightly lighter blue than I used elsewhere on the layout (mostly as I couldn't find the paint can and color code for the other blue). So far, I do like this color. Its less "shockingly" blue than the other backdrops. I thought about repainting ... for about a second. That would entail a large amount of work.

To hide my wooden 2 x 4 TV stand, I worked up some very simple background walls and buildings. It doesn't really camouflage the TV, but its better than looking at bare wood.

I've also removed the three story apartment building that stood in front of the structure. I did this for a few reasons: 1) it blocks the view of the TV when I'm sitting at my workbench and 2) it blocks the view of the structure. I spent a lot of time creating this curve and I do like how it looks. The two tracks curve at a different radius so as to create a space for the Sheridan platform. The apartment building would block this view. I'll just make this an empty lot. 

The view from my workbench:

One of these days I am going to rebuild the currency exchange improve sight lines, of course.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Creature Comforts and a Corner Do-over

I think an important part of model railroading is making the layout room as enjoyable as possible. After all, one will spend a lot of time in this room.

To make my layout room more conducive to long work sessions,  a while ago I added a TV. This, in my humble opinion, is a must have. This is great for weekend afternoons ... all the sports can still be enjoyed while working on the layout.

One item that has been missing from my layout room (actually more of the furnace / storage room) has been computer / internet access. So, I added a small pull out shelf (I used a keyboard slide kit) to add a spot for a computer. This will be good for those "on the fly" internet searched. Now, no need to run to the main PC.

The shelf retracts under the layout when not in use, so it can stay out of the way. 

I've also never really been happy with what I call my "fuse box" curve. When I originally planned the layout, I never planned for this curve. But, as more track is always better, I did expand. So, knowing that nothing is sacred, I tore out some of the still in progress scenery and have started over.

I am adding a removable backdrop that will cover the fuse box. I'll probably use magnets to hold the panel in place. With this, I can pop the panel quickly off to access the fuse box. In addition, I've also added some sections of backdrop that hide the TV (yes, not the best backdrop but needed!) stand. I'll cover these with brick sheets for a better background.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall in Chicago ... a good time to pick up old projects

After taking a few months off, I have decided that I have to finish my L extension to at least where I can put down the track. I might not get the station done anytime soon, but I have to get this section done...its been almost a year since I started it.

So, finally, I started finishing the tower bent section. This really stiffens the structure, just like in real life.

The next section will be separate. Any longer and the whole structure gets too bulky to work with. I'll document that.

Also, took some pictures of life along and under the L.

Its nice to work when there is a good college football game on ... seems to boost productivity!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A few months progress ... Pt 4

It seemed like all I was working on over the past few months was either repainting the MTH 6200's or the 3D modeling. 

So, a few weeks back, I decided I needed to start building some structures for the layout.

So, to the left of my Southport Station, I decided to begin construction of two apartment building backs.

First up is a rather large three and a half story building:

This is just a plain back to a typical court yard building.The walls are styrene covered in N Scale Architect brick sheets and the doors and windows are scratch built and cast from resin. Eventually there will be a three story porch where the doors are. That will be built from strip wood. This building is a bit large at almost 30 inches long.

To the right of this building is a small apartment building rear:

This is a rather narrow building, so I imagine that the apartments are studios rather than the more spacious two and three bedroom apartments next door. I have begun construction of the back porch for this building. Currently its about 50% complete and just set against the building (that accounts for the crookedness).

These buildings are designed as a "back drop" to the tracks so that photos of cars can pop more. Some test photos:

In addition to these background buildings, I'm still working on my new section of elevated track. On this structure, the girders are made from resin castings, for which the masters were made from styrene and rivets.The corner braces are 3D prints, which I made a mold and also made castings. The columns are various styrene shapes with rivet strips.

Even though I am still using resin castings for the girders, the time of construction has been very long. That's mostly due to the fact that I just haven't been working on it very much. I still need to add bracing in between the girders and some other details.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A few months progress .... Pt 3

As part of creating a 4000 series Baldie ... one must have the correct couplers.

Presenting the infamous Sterns and Ward coupler:

I gather a "true" 4000 model, whether a Baldie or Plushie, wouldn't be complete without this rather unique, if somewhat unloved, coupler. CRT and the London Underground seem to be the only adopters, maybe due to the Samuel Insull connection. Otherwise, it seems as if early century rapid transit companies missed out on all the fun.

Therefore, after a lengthy study of the real thing at IRM, and the review of scale plans provided by Ed Halstead (be sure to always visit Ed's blog, linked to on the right), I have been working on a 3D model of this much loved (?) coupler.

The above pictures are of the initial 3D drawings. The somewhat lengthy shank needs some fine tuning to correctly fit under the car.

One benefit of 3D modeling is that the models can be combined and measurements taken to see how everything fits together. The following picture shows the couple at the correct height above an imaginary rail head:

Following is a visual study of this much maligned coupler:

Due to limitations in the 3D printing process, the coupler will not be functional. But, I will try to make it were two could slot together.